Home » Activism » Building Confidence Through Experience

Building Confidence Through Experience

I’ve been meaning to get back into blogging for a while now. There’s so much, I’m really not sure where to start. And there’s always the intimidation of a blank page… I’ve gone to start a new post many times, then backed out.

Nearly every time, this saved draft has come up. I’ve tried deleting it – I wrote it in early June for crying out loud! – but still it remains. I read it this morning and nearly cried at the end. I’ve come so far since writing this. I’m gonna go ahead and let it speak for itself:

Today we [Bernie Sanders 2016] started the Get Out the Vote campaign in my state. I’ve been running the office quite informally: working with people as they arrive, giving them lots of individual attention, letting them chat considerably longer than I probably should…

But now things have gotten serious. I’m supposed to track how many volunteers are scheduled for each shift, how many show up, how many canvassing lists go out, how many shifts are completed and lists returned. And that is not all, no, that is not all…

There is one really awesome thing about the shared spreadsheet we’re using to track this stuff, though: the leader of each location is listed under the heading “staging location director.” It felt so good to see my name there, to have a record that I facilitated the efforts of 18 volunteers who knocked on over 700 doors over the course of 12 hours… Including a sudden rush that came right after I’d given out my last list and run out of the literature we’d prepared with voters’ polling locations. I had to remain welcoming and charismatic, think on my feet, print labels, delegate the tasks of prepping literature and training people, and prepare the new lists – simultaneously. Thank goodness K was there to help out! (He followed my lead and provided awesome support.) I managed to keep things running decently well, get people their lists, and remain in control of my interactions with the volunteers… all after getting only a couple hours of sleep!

I’ve decided to own the title; I feel it shows a lot of appreciation for the hard work and long hours I’m investing in a better future. I’ve been doing it without thinking too much about my role in the campaign… I just kind of gradually and subtly shifted from a nervous volunteer to a competent volunteer organizer to the confident director of a staging location! I never imagined I’d be taking such a leadership position; even as I’ve been doing it, I keep thanking the volunteers for showing up and wondering why they keep thanking me for my work. After all, they’re the ones walking miles in the heat for hours just to find that most of the folks on their lists aren’t home… (not to mention that, if they didn’t show up, I’d just be a grumpy person wasting time online)

18 volunteers, over 700 doors. I enabled that to happen. I’ve slowly been learning to accept thanks and say “you’re welcome” instead of trying to turn it around to be like “I don’t deserve the thanks, you do.” K has thanked and praised me about a million times, often in front of other staff or volunteers. It has me feeling like maybe, just maybe, I’m a reliable competent adult whose efforts mean something and are worth acknowledging.

So that was early June. We all know what happened to Bernie’s campaign. It was a really rough time for me. I protested the DNC in Philadelphia: I traveled alone, found my way around a new city, joined giant groups of people I’d never met, waved signs and screamed my lungs out. Somehow, I managed to keep myself from dying of heat exhaustion and dehydration, and I stayed safe. Somehow, I manged not to have a panic attack from being outside alone around thousands of strangers. The sense of solidarity because we were all there for a common cause must’ve helped. 😉

I joined my state Green Party the following weekend. Signed up for nearly every committee, figuring I’d see which one(s) I liked most and get involved in them, letting the others kind of fall to the wayside. Started making connections, but mostly focused in on Jill Stein‘s presidential campaign. Whereas with Bernie I had run one of several offices in my county, for Jill I was the campaign coordinator for my county – and my office was the only one. I doubt we ever had 18 volunteers, much less in one day, and we didn’t have the resources for door-to-door canvassing. But it was a chance to hang out with some friends I’d made while campaigning for Bernie, talk to some rather cool people while phone banking, and learn more about how to organize.

Jill’s campaign kept me sane going into November; it may have saved my life. It kept me focused on the things that are important – the “issues” – immune to the reality show style debacle mainstream media made of the election. It gave me hope, something to work toward. As I attended and volunteered at campaign events, as I became active in the committees I’d joined, I started connecting with other Green Party members – particularly state party leadership. They were thrilled to have someone so eager to volunteer, they kept giving me more and more opportunities, bigger and more powerful roles. It felt awesome.

By Election Night, I knew that I had found a home. We held a fundraiser, which was mostly an opportunity to hear some great speakers, eat delicious food, strengthen our connections, and remind ourselves that there is always work to do. It almost didn’t matter that all of our candidates lost their elections. We had each other, our shared vision for a better future, our determination to make that happen, to never give up. We empowered each other. After feeling isolated for so long, stymied as to how to make new friends, I had joined and remained active in and become a vital part of a group.

Jill’s campaign was at least as much about building the Green Party and keeping people engaged with the issues, as it was about having a Green president. In my state, at least, it was actually a huge success. We gained a lot of great organizers (myself included), many new registered Green voters, visibility, and the traction we needed to organize local affiliates throughout the state. People are engaged, motivated, organizing around issues that are important to them, and building coalitions with other activist groups. People say we need a progressive party, a party for and by everyday folk; we need to build it up it so anyone can run for public office … well, the Green Party is doing it. We’re actively recruiting candidates for local elections in 2017 and 2018.

Now I have the honor of serving as vice-chair of one of my state Green Party’s standing committees, which means I’m also part of the state party leadership. I feel a lot of camaraderie in that group; they appreciate my work and, more importantly, value me as a full person – including my imperfections. When I told them I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation, several of them said they’d been there, and I can talk with them anytime. We support each other and collaborate and empower our members to make the world a better place, according not only to the Green Party’s Ten Key Values, but in response to whatever drives each member to work for change.

One thing I’m particularly grateful for is that, after I first started asserting my (gender neutral) pronouns, the state leadership began including pronouns in introductions at meetings. So when the facilitator asks folks to say their name, county, and something relevant to the main topic of the meeting, another item on that list is now pronouns. I think I suggested once that it would be helpful, and from there they started doing it on their own.

This, admittedly, caused enough discomfort “among new members” that the secretary moved for us to stop including the pronouns in introductions. When I was late to the meeting in which we were scheduled to discuss this, the vice-chair reached out to me to encourage me to attend. They all listened as I gave my statement on why it was important, and the motion was unanimously overruled. When someone referred to me with the wrong pronouns, at least two people loudly corrected them, simultaneously, before I could decide whether to speak up. It was glorious.

(Even better are the folks who use my pronouns seamlessly, and/or correct themselves if they make a mistake. My pronouns are ze/zir or they/them/their. I go with the latter in this group because I figure they’re more accessible, but Fox uses ze/zir and I’m happy to hear either.)

So, yeah. The next big hurtle is gonna be public speaking. As long as it’s a group discussion I’m totally confident sharing my ideas, but if I’m giving anything that might remotely resemble a speech … It’s a major area for growth, I’ll put it that way. I was offered the floor at our next statewide meeting to talk about why we include pronouns in introductions, and I accepted. I guess we’ll build from there.


One thought on “Building Confidence Through Experience

  1. Pingback: Just Say ‘No’ to Telepathy: Part 1 | a day with depression

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